George Schuyler (Episode 11 of 14); Black power origins
Not all idealist and youth become cynics and old age but some do. But the young idealist be personally ambitious capable of penetrating wit and detached analysis and the chances of eventual cynicism are increased. Georgette Schuyler is something of a prototype of the above an intellectualizing socialist in his younger days as practical by and saw through the inconsistency of most organized brands of militancy. And yet he held to a dream of his own the total obliteration of all distinctions of race. Discover the whole game of race was a grotesque farce to be ridiculed and satirized with a detached cool humor which became his trademark. By the late 1940s he had behind him a quarter century of debunking black was drowsy black nationalist then socialist then carbon ist and finally he had nothing left to say. The only path he saw to his goal of a nonracial world was via a world wide race war. Another path to be avoided. Cynicism then took hold of him and it is last years he has been a wretched reactionary. George gotter was born in Providence Rhode Island. His ancestry has been traced on his mother's side to
Madagascar with George's characteristic skepticism he once noted that the claim that she was a princess was quote probably a lie from nineteen twelve thousand nine hundred twenty he was in the US army rising to the rank of lieutenant during World War One is a claim as a journalist began in 1922 when he joined the Socialist messenger magazine of a Philip Randolph with a regular feature column entitled shafts and darts. He was then a dapper 27 year old back Harlem bachelor. And some of his early columns either dealt quite harshly with the new game of interracial romance then taking hold Literary of left circles his future wife the daughter of a Texas oil tycoon and a rebellious young lady had adopted socialism and had sent him to the messengers some articles while she had been a student in California on a visit to New York she stopped by the messenger offices and with some trepidation was introduced to her future spouse. They found
themselves talking away the afternoon and before leaving he agreed to. Let's say she agreed to a date that evening to go Dad say get the famous Harlem Nights by the Savoy Ballroom there after they spent many a night at the Savoy and endless hours in discussion of Mark's poetry and art. It was not long before they were married one of the early interracial marriages of the era. Schuyler was never much of a political joiner. He did have a short stand as secretary of the Syracuse New York Socialist Party in one thousand twenty twenty one for the most part however he presented himself as a detached observer of politics while a staff writer for the messenger he offered little in the way of economic or political theory. But he was profession that weaving a progressive moral point into his ridicule and satire in the shops and darts column of February one thousand twenty four. He had a problem with his monthly booby prize
quote We had almost decided to withhold the prize this month. The extraordinary competition was overwhelming won and haggard from wading through the usual reams of editorial drivel in the Negro press we were about to give up in despair and disgust. Then we ran across the following dose of flubbed ABRI a Pittsburgh Courier editorial by Floyd J Calvin which was critical of giving a bonus to World War 1. War veterans. The veterans were asked to accept as their greatest compensation. The fact that a president is still our chief administrator and the chief authority of the government is still vested in the people. Let's gather charcoal. This is so good that in addition to the usual prize a handsome Liam brushed and beautifully lacquer dill pickle we also award brother Floyd the lavishly decorated tissue paper overcoat. Brother Floyd and Scott are really on friendly terms. Calvin had worked with on the messenger before coming to the courier scholar found no more difficulty in lampooning his
friends than he did his enemies. In 1925 he joined Calvin on the Courier and has been there ever sence. In recent years Scott has been managing editor of the Pittsburgh career. When he first joined that paper it was a fast growing weekly that would soon eclipse the supercargo defender in Baltimore Afro-American and become the most widely circulated negro journal in the country. Skivers reputation as a black HL Mencken would help increase the circulation shafts and darts. This column was much the same in the Courier as it had been in the radical messenger race meme of all times were debunked KKK white race man Marcus Garvey and his universal Negro Improvement Association race meme major rusty moat and the successor to Booker T Washington the noble ACP and organizations of white helpers in general much of scholars whipped appeared to have been borrowed from the job humor emanating from the Savoy Ballroom scene discolor the Negril church was talking of heaven while
the negro was catching hell and asked to Garvey's failure. Quote last summer mock us accuse the deity of being a negrito. No wonder luck went against him. A 1931 scholar published a novel Black no more based on the old homily that there were three ways to solve the Negro problem either to get out get white or get along. Since there was difficulty in getting out to Nigro got along only indifferently the hero of the book invents a way for Negroes to change pigmentation features and hair texture in effect. To get white the invention creates mass confusion among racists especially since the offspring of an artificial white and a Dixie cracker would be a brown baby. And there is panic among black businessmen and professionals who fear they will go out of business without a captive audience. Although a skeptic in dealing with particular movements and program scholar was capable of the most radical idealism when dealing with abstract goals or sweeping all encompassing
programs. The way out of the catastrophe of the depression of the 1930s was for the Negro to 1 create a 100 percent consumer organization in every Negro community to have a nationwide union of all Negro workers professional and otherwise. Three have at least a million members for the end of the ICP for create a permanent national negro Congress elected by Negroes in the various states. Five have a block house in Washington with an efficient corps of legislative representatives a lobbyist and six grade a first rate educational bureau supported by Meg rose for betterment of race relations. Written in 1933 this statement of program represents a concise and Mopsus of radical demands of the day. The National negro Congress was then three years away a black house would soon be created better known as Franklin Delano Roosevelt's black kept it. Not quite what Scott wanted.
It's a sort of a substitute and in substitution of a union of all Negro workers there would soon be the integrated CIO which in which they grows would play a vital role in organizing. In 1937 Schuyler made a nationwide tour to investigate the achievements of black and white integration in the CIO and with elation he summarized his findings noting that previously he was skeptical of laborers of both races being able to work together. But he had seen the integration quote it works. The general trend of the New Deal received Schuyler support but on particular actions he was as usual back biting south. About the only action he unequivocally supported was economic cooperatives for neg Rose cooperatives disk either were democratic and morally pure compared to the double dealing of political movements in November of 1930 he wrote a lengthy editorial calling for the building of a
negro cooperative democracy when the shell of our present capitalist system. The cooperative society of Negras would be created by their own efforts and management and without paying tribute to the retailer. The surplus savings or profits instead of going to someone individual would be put back into the business used for social services to the group or divided among its shareholders. The purpose of this cooperative would be first and last quote to serve its members whereas the capitalist business is concerned with accumulating profits for its owners in a co-operative system everyone owns private property and the editorial went on to draw a distinction between co-operative systems and economic socialism or communism. Said Schuyler. Whereas the socialist hope to usher in sudden utopia society by the ballot and the communist hope to turn the trick by the bullet
the cooperator who is really an ad Arcas and the triumph of his society will do away with the state in its present form and I am an advocate is slowly and methodically doing so through legal intelligent economic cooperation or mutual aid of which prince grew popgun the anarchist spoke. Schuyler started a young negro co-operative league to get his society underway and when the national Negro business laid the old conservative organization of Booker T Washington created a colored Merchants Association. Schuyler applauded the plan and gave this CMA much coverage in its columns. Now a scholar may have imagined himself as some kind of revolutionary anarchist syndicalist but in supporting the business man's cooperative he aligned himself with one of the more conservative social movements of the 1930s. The CMA propose no more than the pooling of capital among black businessmen. It was not the Rosedale type system outlined by
Scarlett. It did not call for participation of the workers or consumers in any meaningful form. During the Depression there was widespread popularity for cooperatives and they enjoyed some limited success but most all of them they grow co-ops folded during her forties. Scholar followed the usual path of dissolution cooperators. He came to rely on free enterprise. During the 1940s sky therefore rejected Inter and virtually all progressive movements. At times he still had a point worth considering such as when he ridiculed as fruitless the battle to unseat Senator Bilbo and replace him with rank and more often scholar was merely vicious as in his many diatribes against quote bleeding heart end quote liberals who oppose the anti-Red witch hunts of the postwar years. However in 1944 while well on his way to cynicism skiver
still found the energy to talk of his ideal of a nonracial world. However in describing his goal he put it in such terms of absolute purity as to make it appear obtainable. He demanded black and white be reconditioned so that they think of themselves as the same. All right well let's start that over him or leave some time so you can find a good place to cut. He demanded black and white be reconditioned so that they think of themselves as the same. He asked what chance is there of doing this. And he answered It would require a revolutionary program of reeducation calling not only for the wholesale destruction of the accumulated mass of racialist of propaganda in books magazines newspapers motion pictures and all the present laws and regulations which recognize the racial fiction that are based on it but also a
complete reorganization of our social systems. It would have to include the complete abolition of Jim Crow laws and institutions the rescinding of all racial pollution laws barring marriage because of so called race. A complete enforcement of the letter and spirit of the Federal Constitution and the ending of every vestige of color bar and industry commerce in the professions. The words negro white Caucasian Nordic area would have to be permanently taken out of circulation except among scholars and scientist. And Scott concluded it is extremely doubtful if the colored people here or anywhere else will accept anything less than this. And if they do it is very likely to prove unsatisfactory. The alternative is to drift toward an international color war. Ominous signs of which Schuyler saw them developing. He lamented the lack of healthy cooperation between the races and he said very little about how this goal was to be achieved
gradually. Schuyler had worked himself into a political blind alley. His distrust of organized movements of socialism led him to sound more like a bitter obstructionist than a practitioner of constructive criticism. Red baiting had been an old hobby of his and it gained an ever greater importance in his actions in his writings. It was one thing in one thousand thirty five to write quote. Only the keenest minded and sophistical Jesuit Inquisitor could discern any difference between fascist Germany or Fascist Italy and communist Russia. All three are ruthless dictatorships. All three brutally suppress all minorities. All three have their sadistic torture chambers their dungeons their prison camps and forced labor. It was quite another thing to deride communists and fellow travellers in column after column during the McCarthy era in 1947 when anti-Red hysteria was just beginning to ruin progressive movements and individuals scatter gloated at the quote petty bourgeoisie
who were wooed into the red fold by tongue in cheek American commissar as who jibed them into believing they were writers artists actors and the like and are now all oblique confessin the blues and repudiating the boys from the Borscht Belt. Since the end of World War Two scholars only plan for racial justice has been to develop Negro business and to do so for the businessman without the cooperation of consumer and labor in politics during the past two decades his activities have been almost entirely in the area of anti communism. In 1950 his ever heightening patriotism led him to aid in the formation of Virginia Union University's global crusade against communism this is a negro University in Virginia. And this particular right wing crusade was interested in Africa scholars view being that it was the patriotic duty of American Negro businessman to invest dam and work with African businessmen to stave off a
communist takeover of Africa. The personal transformation from idealist to cynic can be discerned and comparing his photograph used in the Courier during the 1920s with the photo used in the paper in the 1950s. The former shows a serious looking young man with a countenance of meditation in the latter picture his head is tilted up bird with his nose in the air there is an unavoidable smirk of a smile and a rascally twinkle in the eyes. Schuyler still writes occasionally for the rascally American mercury just as he did in the 1920s in the old days the Mercury was one of the progressive magazines of the time. Today it is a right wing storehouse of cynicism of which one contribution was Skyler's March 7th 1959 article couche Jeff's foothold in Africa. The career of scholars daughter Philippa presents an irony which the old man
- Black power origins
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- Ted Vincent discusses George S. Schuyler, a young socialist of the early 1920s who gradually evolved into a bitter defeatist.
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- Schuyler, George S. (George Samuel), 1895-1977; African Americans--Civil rights--History
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